Definition

Roseola is an infection caused by a virus. It is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever followed by a rash. The infection usually ends on its own without complications.

Roseola

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Causes

Roseola is usually caused by a virus called human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6). It can also be caused by human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7). These viruses are not the same as the herpes viruses that cause cold sores or genital herpes.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the chance of roseola include:

    
  • Age: 6 months to 3 years; most common between 6 months and 15 months
  • Contact with an infected child is rarely reported
  • Season: Most common in the Spring and Fall
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of roseola include:

        
  • Fever     
  • 103°F to 105°F
  • Begins suddenly and is not associated with other symptoms
  • Lasts 3 days, sometimes a day or two longer
  • Convulsions may occur in association with high fever in up to 5% to 10% of children
  • A rash that develops 12-24 hours after the fever     
  • Appears on the chest and abdomen first
  • Rose-colored
  • May spread to arms, legs, neck, and face
  • Lasts for a few hours to a few days and does not itch
  • Other symptoms or signs may include:     
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the neck and behind the ears
  • Irritability
  • Poor appetite
  • Upper respiratory tract infection symptoms that may occur before the fever
  • The appearance of a rash after the fever disappears is the characteristic sign of roseola.

    Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Usually other tests are not needed. Often, there is a history of other children with roseola in the community.

    Treatment

    No treatment is needed for roseola unless the child has a weakened immune system. The most important treatment is to keep the fever down and drink plenty of fluids.

    Talk to your doctor about how to bring the fever down through:

        
  • Medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Lukewarm sponge baths
  • Plenty of fluids
  •     
  • Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye's syndrome. Ask your doctor which other medicines are safe for your child.
  • Call your doctor if your child has a seizure and/or the fever persists.

    Prevention

    To help prevent the spread of roseola, avoid contact with an infected child when possible. The incubation period is 5-15 days. The virus is thought to be spread by contact with infected saliva. Carefully and frequently wash your hands to help prevent the spread of roseola.